"CSO shows no signs of sadness"

January 2 2012

Janelle Gelfand, nky.cincinnati.com

January 8, 2010

A day after announcing that he will leave at the end of next season, Paavo Jarvi led the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra in the kind of electrifying performance that has defined his tenure for the past nine years.

Even though some orchestra members later expressed a feeling of sadness at Jarvi’s decision, their playing was truly impressive in the varied program of this morning’s concert.

It was just the kind of program in which Jarvi has excelled: Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3 — with a “thunder and lightning” Russian pianist Denis Matsuev — Mozart’s “Prague” Symphony, and the orchestra’s first performance of Messiaen’s “Le tombeau resplendissant,” an extraordinary find.

Rachmaninoff’s Concerto No. 3 in D Minor is one of the masterpieces of the piano repertoire. Its fiendishly difficult virtuosities are matched against moments of lyrical beauty and Russian soul.

From his performance on Friday, it is clear that Matsuev is a giant of the keyboard. He projected a powerful sound, yet he found warmth in every phrase. Even the most treacherous passages were tackled with clarity and precision.

Rachmaninoff’s romantic themes were deeply felt, and he illuminated the melodies through the thickest textures. Indeed, his control was impressive — his touch, tone and how he was able to color a moment. But it was also wonderfully spontaneous. The first movement cadenza, for instance, was supercharged, and he summoned such massive sonorities, you half expected strings to start popping out of the piano.

Then to have such power tempered with the serene beauty of Jasmine Choi’s flute, or Thomas Sherwood’s horn — it simply doesn’t get much better than this.

The slow movement was impassioned, and the tarantella-like scherzo at its center flew like lightning. The finale, too, was adrenalin-charged. As he climbed mountain after mountain, it became a feat of endurance — but also one of stunning musicality. In the final surge, the pianist seemed ready to fly off the edge of his seat.

Jarvi, often turning to watch his hands fly across the keys, was with his every note, and swept up the strings gloriously

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